Horses have strange smelling behaviours, pickiness about feed, and an extraordinary sensitivity to touch. In this post, we dive into horses’ senses of smell, taste, and touch.
Sense of Smell
Horses’ sense of smell is about 50 times better than humans’, although not as powerful as dogs’. Their noses can distinguish the scent of predators, other horses, medications hidden in their feed, and even possibly human emotions, like fear and happiness.
Horses have anywhere from 25 million to 100 million olfactory receptors, which help detect scents. The human nose contains 5 to 6 million receptors, while dogs and rats have about 300 million.
Horses’ large, flexible nostrils suck air into their large nasal cavity. Inside the cavity, turbinate bones distribute inhaled air, and tiny hairs slow it down to trap it in mucus. Horses can identify a scent’s direction because each nostril’s receptors connect to separate parts of their brain.
Like several other animals, including cats and pandas, horses have an organ known as the vomeronasal organ (VNO) at their nasal cavity’s base. In horses, this organ’s most significant role is detecting other horses’ pheromones - chemical substances that affect animal behaviour. More specifically, stallions will use the VNO to determine whether a mare is in heat.
To direct odours to their VNO, horses use the Flehmen response, lifting their head up high, peeling back their lips, wrinkling their nose, and temporarily stopping breathing. Horses sometimes also use the Flehmen response for strong, unfamiliar smells like perfume and gasoline.
Horses often sniff each other’s nostrils when they first meet. Mares fix their newborn foal’s scent into their brain while grooming it. However, horses can also form negative associations with certain smells.
Sense of Taste
Horses’ taste buds are located mainly on the roof of their mouth and the back section of their tongue. They have approximately 25,000 taste buds, compared to between 8000 and 10,000 for humans.
Horses can distinguish between different flavours, like sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. They tend to prefer sweet and salty foods, perhaps because sweet foods fill them up, while salty ones replenish their salt levels. Sour or bitter foods, however, risk being poisonous.
If there’s plenty of grass or hay available, horses will eat the foods with the most appealing taste and texture, although they tend to avoid toxic plants. Left to their own devices, horses will not necessarily choose the most nutritious option and may consume more food than is necessary to meet their needs.
Horses tend to prefer young, tender plants to mature, tough ones. They may refuse food or water with an unusual taste or smell. However, they’re less choosy when hungry.
Sense of Touch
Horses’ sense of touch is highly sensitive, especially around their nose, lips, and ears. They can feel a fly landing on their back and the rider’s slightest shift of weight in the saddle. A particular horse’s level of sensitivity depends on factors including its age and the thickness of its skin.
Horses use their coarse whiskers - found around their muzzle and eyes - to gather information about their environment. They’ll paw the ground then touch it with their muzzle to check its safety, firmness, and depth.
Those who ride and work with horses should use a light touch on the reins and ensure that tack fits correctly. Know that horses prefer being rubbed and stroked - in non-sensitive areas - to being patted or tickled.
Do you have a favourite fact about horses’ sense of smell, taste, or touch? Let us know in the comments!
Roaming in the Mongolian steppes, you may find herds of Przewalski’s horses, the one remaining species of wild horse. Other horses commonly considered wild, like mustangs, are actually feral horses - escaped domestic horses. There are also several groups of semi-feral horses, such as Dartmoor ponies, that live mostly independently but with some human intervention.
In this post, we describe different types of wild, feral, and semi-feral horses.
This endangered horse has a dun coat with a pale belly and white muzzle, a dark stripe along its spine, dark lower legs with zebra-like stripes, a dark mane and tail, and no forelock. Pronounced “Shuh-val-ski’s” horse, this short, stocky equine has a large head and thick neck.
Although these hardy horses became extinct in the wild in the 1960s, they were bred in captivity and reintroduced into Mongolia. They live in groups of mares and foals with a single dominant stallion. Younger males live in separate bachelor groups.
This prehistoric wild horse roamed in southern France and Spain and east to central Russia and is depicted in cave paintings in France and Spain. Wild tarpans died out in the 19th century, and the last captive animal died in Russia in 1909.
Ill-tempered tarpans had a long, shaggy coat. In the 20th century, the Heck brothers in Germany combined several breeds to try to recreate the tarpan’s genetic combination.
These descendants of Spanish horses brought to the Americas were often bred with other breeds, including American Quarter Horses and draft horses, leading to horses with a variety of colours and patterns, including bay, sorrel, black, and palomino. They’re generally medium-sized, hardy, and sure-footed with stocky legs.
Mustangs live in small herds in the grasslands of the western United States. Although there are far fewer mustangs than there used to be, their population increases rapidly enough that the American Bureau of Land Management is working to adopt some of them out.
These feral horses escaped from horses brought to Australia by European settlers. With different breeds including Thoroughbred, Arabian, and Australian Draught in their ancestry, they don’t have a consistent appearance.
Hardy, intelligent, athletic brumbies are well-adapted to Australian wetlands, forests, rocky ranges, and tropical grasslands. In fact, with a population of at least 400,000 animals, they’re known to damage vegetation and cause problems for cattle farming, leading to control efforts ranging from fencing to culling.
Dartmoor and Exmoor Ponies
In 2 different English moorlands roam Dartmoor and Exmoor ponies, owned by either private individuals or national park authorities. Both breeds have a thick, woolly lower coat and an oily top coat that snow slides off, plus a coarse mane and tail. Both types of ponies were used historically in mining.
Exmoor ponies are related genetically to the Przewalski’s horse and nearly went extinct in 1946. They’re rounded up annually to establish ownership and apply tags or other marks. Both Exmoor and Dartmoor ponies are down to several hundred animals grazing in the UK, with other ponies in other parts of the world.
This ancient, greyish-white horse breed lives in southern France, grazing in saltmarshes. The animals roam freely but are gathered annually for counting and branding. They’re often used on ranches or for guided rides for tourists.
Do you have a favourite out of these wild, feral, and semi-feral horses? Let us know in the comments!
From dancing parrots to dogs shaking hands, talented animals are a popular source of amusement. Horses have had their own share of talent, from painting to performing mathematical calculations. In this post, we share the stories of 4 gifted horses.
Cholla: The Painting Horse
Born in Nevada in 1985, Cholla was a copper buckskin mustang-Quarter Horse mix. He had a black mane and tail, a dorsal stripe, and zebra stripes on his legs. After noticing that Cholla followed her around as she was painting his corral, his owner—Renee Chambers, a ballet dancer—decided to try giving him a paintbrush.
Although Chambers put the paint on the brush and stuck it in Cholla’s mouth, he did the painting independently. He appeared to enjoy painting, creating colourful abstract designs.
Cholla’s paintings have been displayed and sold internationally, and he even received an honourable mention for the Italian Arte Laguna Prize in 2008. The contest was open to all artists, although the judges did not realize initially that he was a horse. Cholla died in 2013.
Thor of Hopehaven: The Trick Performer and Painter
This American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft gelding lives on a farm in Georgia. He has a dark coat with a patch of spots around his hindquarters. His owner, Dorinda Hemmings, is a painter and has taught him a number of tricks.
Thor’s tricks include bowing, shaking hands, opening and closing a mailbox, and fetching a drink from a cooler. One day, Hemmings noticed him pick up a paintbrush, so she tried setting him up with a canvas. Hemmings picks the colours then gives Thor the brush.
Clever Hans: The Talented Tapper
In Berlin in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, awed crowds gathered to watch the performances of Clever Hans, an Arabian stallion. Hans answered questions from his trainer—Wilhelm von Osten, a high school math teacher—by tapping his hoof to indicate letters and numbers or by moving his head.
Hans gave accurate answers to math questions, stated the time, spelled names, and identified colours, musical pieces, and more. The German Board of Education studied Hans for a year and a half but did not find any hoax. However, in 1907, biologist and psychologist Oskar Pfungst discovered that the horse was responding to very subtle cues from questioners, in what is now known as the “Clever Hans effect.”
Clever Hans was drafted during the First World War and died in 1916.
Lady Wonder: The Psychic Horse
Lady Wonder, a black mare with white feet and 3 white stockings, was born in Virginia in 1924. Her owner, Claudia Fonda, worked at an iron foundry and raised Lady from a young age. Suspecting that her horse had special abilities, Fonda trained her to move blocks containing letters and numbers.
Fonda built a large, piano-sized typewriter that Lady could press with her muzzle to answer questions. Approximately 150,000 people visited the supposedly psychic horse, paying $1 to have her answer 3 questions about topics ranging from romance to horse race results and the location of missing children.
She gave enough correct answers that many people believed in her powers, even some scientists. Of course, many were also skeptical, attributing her success to unconscious cues or trickery. Lady Wonder died in 1957.
What do you think about these horses’ exceptional abilities? Let us know in the comments!
- Time is the determining factor in barrel racing.
- If you knock over a barrel, add 5 seconds to your time.
Barrel racing is a rodeo event in which a horse and rider attempt to complete a cloverleaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time.
There are 2 penalties in barrel racing: knocking over a barrel and breaking the pattern. If a horse knocks over a barrel, it adds 5 seconds to the time. However, if you’re skilled enough to catch the barrel to prevent it from hitting the ground, you’re in the clear! A broken pattern disqualifies the run completely.
Barrel racing is racing your horse around 3 barrels as fast as you can. The barrels are set up in a triangle pattern in an arena – the first and second barrels are 60 feet from the starting point and the third barrel is 105 feet from the starting point. However, this even calls for much more control of your horse than you think as both horse and rider must work together to have a fast run.
Barrel racing takes a lot of time, discipline, and control. Once you begin training correctly, you will notice that it’s not just about running around barrels. A good rule of thumb for a beginner barrel racer is to perfect the pattern first and the speed will follow. The best way to learn to barrel race is with an instructor, whether it be a seasoned barrel racer or an actual instructor. However, it’s not impossible to teach yourself.
A pocket is a buffer between the horse and the barrel, about 3 to 5 feet in distance. Every barrel horse must learn how to respect and learn the pockets of the barrel as this is what teaches them to give themselves some space when turning the barrel, so they don’t knock it over.
The rate is about 10 feet from the barrel. In the beginning, stop your horse at the point so they know when to slow down and start setting up for the pocket and turning the barrel.
The best way to mark these important points out in the pattern is with soccer cones. However, just like in jumping, you should be looking past your jump and not at it. In barrel racing, you need to train yourself not to look at the barrel in front of you. Instead, look past it then as soon as you round the barrel look past your next barrel.
Start at a walk as you start training. Ensure that you have control of your horse and that you’re stopping at each point. Make sure you are leaning the pockets – going into the barrel a little wide and coming closer as you start for the next barrel. As you start teaching your horse to know where to slow down and set up for the following barrel, train yourself as well; know where to look, where to place your hands, and where to add more leg.
Sound like fun? Let us know in the comments!
Although our activities and routines vary based on the time of year, we don’t necessarily notice any major changes in the way our bodies function. Horses, however, clearly adjust their bodies, behaviour, and needs based on environmental conditions like the amount of daylight. In this post, we explore seasonal changes in horses.
Fall and Winter
The fall is a good time to prepare horses for the coming winter, including adding more hay to their diet. In the fall, pasture plants start to store more sugars, which can cause digestive problems in horses. Fall pasture grass also has fewer nutrients.
Forage, such as hay, takes a long time for horses to digest. That provides heat over a longer period - ideal for the winter. Hay also gives the horse extra calories. Note that it’s essential to make changes to horses’ diet slowly, not all at once.
Depending on the horse, it can be a good idea to increase its body weight over the fall. Some horses lose weight over the winter since they’re burning calories to stay warm. Others gain weight due to reduced exercise.
Wild horses reduce their metabolism over the winter given the harsher environmental conditions. Although domestic horses have a more consistent food supply, there is some evidence that Shetland ponies, at least, also have a lower metabolic rate in the winter.
Although horses generally prefer drinking cold water, they also tend to drink less in the fall and winter. One issue can be freezing water, so insulated bucket covers and de-icers for water troughs are available.
A more obvious change when looking at a horse in the fall is that it starts growing its fuzzy winter coat in September. Throughout the cooler fall and winter, horse owners must ensure that their horses stay warm and dry.
Spring and Summer
Horses start shedding their winter coats in response to increasing daylight. The process starts in late December but only becomes noticeable in May. A horse tends to shed at the same time every year and often in the same pattern.
In the spring, horses may eat too much new grass too quickly, leading to health issues like colic and laminitis. Horse owners should limit their horses’ access to the pasture in the springtime, only gradually increasing it.
Mares are typically in heat on and off between April and October. With an 11-month gestation period, they give birth the following spring or summer.
Like humans, horses suffer in summer heat and humidity. It’s important to provide them with sufficient fresh, cool, clean water. Loose or block salt can also be beneficial, as can electrolytes if the horse is sweating a lot.
Horse owners and riders should limit horses’ activity to the cooler parts of the day if possible and ensure that the animals cool down properly, perhaps by misting or sponging them. Horses living outside should have access to shade or a shelter to escape the heat, while horses indoors enjoy having a fan running. Another part of horse summer care is applying sunscreen to vulnerable patches of skin.
Did you increase your understanding of how horses and horse care change over the course of the year? Let us know in the comments!
If you’re a beginner rider, you may be wondering what to wear for a riding lesson or trail ride. Appropriate attire varies depending on the riding discipline and weather. In this post, we outline what to wear from head to toe while horseback riding.
To protect your brain, wear a helmet designed specifically for horseback riding every time you get in the saddle (we provide them at Shelby Ranch). The helmet should fit well and be certified by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and Safety Equipment Institute (SEI).
Torso and Arms
The type of shirt that you wear while riding does not matter hugely - a t-shirt or long-sleeved shirt is fine. Your clothing should not be too loose, to avoid getting it caught in the saddle, but also should not restrict your movement. Avoid wearing a tank top since they do not protect your arms from the sun or branches.
When going on a trail ride, in particular, wear layers to let you adapt to the weather conditions. You could wear a sweater, vest, jacket, raincoat, or scarf or some combination. In the summer, try a cooling neck wrap.
Riding gloves prevent the reins from rubbing your hands or slipping. Try crochet-backed gloves in the summer and lined gloves in the winter.
Some riders choose to wear a padded safety vest that protects their chest, organs, ribs, and spine in case of a fall. If you’re riding at night, wear reflective, light-coloured clothing, such as a vest.
Those doing English riding tend to wear fitted breeches or jodhpurs, or the more-comfortable riding tights. Riding pants do not have a seam along the inside leg. They often have patches of textured material on the inside of the knees and sometimes around the seat to achieve better grip.
Western riders often wear jeans. Ordinary jeans are fine if you’re only riding occasionally, or there are special riding jeans available with flat inside seams. Western riders sometimes also wear chaps, which are protective leather coverings that go on top of pants.
Whatever pants you choose, they should be fairly tight-fitting to avoid getting fabric caught in the saddle. Shorts, capris, and cropped pants are not recommended since the saddle and stirrups rub against any bare skin.
Boots with a 1-inch (2.54 cm) heel are the safest footwear for horseback riding to keep your feet from slipping out of the stirrup. Hiking boots or rain boots with a proper heel can work, although rain boots are not ideal. They’re not as durable as riding boots, tend to be loose at the top, and do not have the best grip.
English riders tend to wear either paddock boots, which are ankle height, or dress boots, which are knee height. They may slip half chaps on top of paddock boots to protect the lower legs from rubbing. Western riders wear various boot styles but often select cowboy boots.
In any case, the boots or shoes that you wear for riding should be sturdy and closed-toed to protect your feet from horse hooves. That means no sandals or flip-flops.
What would your dream riding outfit be? Let us know in the comments!
They say it’s good to try to see the world through someone else’s eyes - to imagine life from their perspective. We may not be able to get a horse’s-eye view of the world, but learning about horses’ vision helps us understand why they act the way they do. In this post, we explore horses’ eyes and sense of sight.
Horses have the largest eyes of all land mammals - 8 times larger than human ones. These huge eyeballs make objects appear larger to horses than they do to humans.
Horse eyes are generally brown but may also be blue, green, yellow, amber, or hazel. Having non-brown eyes is often linked to the horse’s coat colour.
Although people sometimes think horses are colour-blind, they can see green and blue. Red, however, may appear to horses as green or yellowish, grey, or brown.
Equine eyes have trouble picking up details. Horses typically have 20/30 vision, compared to humans’ gold standard of 20/20 vision. What that means is that, what a human with good vision can see in detail from 30 feet away, a horse can only see clearly from 20 feet away.
Like humans, horses can be nearsighted or farsighted. They can also suffer from other eye problems.
Horses do have better night vision than humans and even see better on a cloudy day than a sunny one. On the other hand, they take longer than humans to adapt to a sudden change between light and dark.
Unlike humans’ round pupils, horse pupils are horizontal. This feature of grazing animals gives them panoramic vision along the ground, helping them spot predators and see clearly while they’re fleeing. Interestingly, the eyes rotate as the animal grazes so that its pupils remain horizontal.
Range of Horse Vision
Horses’ eyes are on the side of their head, giving them 350° of vision. Most of that vision is monocular, meaning that they see separate images on either side of their head. Horses’ perception of peripheral motion is keen, and they can move their eyes independently to scan for predators.
It sometimes seems like a horse does not recognize with its right eye an object that it saw previously with only its left eye. Although the 2 parts of a horse’s brain do connect, the animal may not recognize an object seen from a different angle or with different lighting.
Horses do also employ binocular vision - vision that uses both eyes at the same time. The range is about 65° in a triangular shape in front of the horse’s face. Since depth perception works best with binocular vision, and horses’ vision is mostly monocular, they have some trouble determining relative distance.
They also have 2 blind spots: one directly behind them, and one in front of their face. The front blind spot extends from the horse’s eye level down to the ground. It’s hard for us to imagine, but horses can’t see the grass as they’re grazing, and objects faced head-on seem to disappear if they get too close.
To make up for their vision limitations, horses use their whiskers to sense objects in their blind spot. They also move their head to get a better view.
Did you learn something new about horses’ vision? Let us know in the comments!
You may have heard that horses sleep standing up. That claim is only partly true, but the reality of horse sleep is just as fascinating. In this post, we dive into horses’ strange sleeping behaviour.
Stages of Horse Sleep
Besides wakefulness, horses have 3 stages in their sleep-wake cycle. In the state of drowsiness or deep restfulness, a horse is relaxed but still easily roused.
Next, the horse enters slow-wave sleep (SWS), in which its brain is less active, with slow, synchronized electrical waves. Horses stay standing for both deep restfulness and SWS.
However, the animal must lie down for the deep rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep so that its skeletal muscles can relax. REM sleep is also known as paradoxical sleep because, counterintuitively, the horse’s brain is just as active as when it’s awake. As the name suggests, horses in REM sleep display jerky eye movements (with closed eyelids) and rapid, chaotic brain waves.
REM sleep is essential for horses’ well-being, as well as for learning and the creation of new memories. It’s likely that horses dream during this stage. They may move their legs while dreaming and probably dream about experiences from their day.
Horse Sleeping Behaviour
As prey animals, horses do most of their dozing standing up so that it’s easier to flee if a predator appears. Like several other large land mammals, they have a feature known as the stay apparatus, a system of tendons and ligaments that lets them lock their leg joints while sleeping.
When horses are sleeping, they distribute their weight among 3 of their legs and rest the fourth one, normally a hind limb. They also close their eyes, relax their ears, and droop their head, neck, and lower lip.
Before lying down, a horse wakes up for a moment to check its environment. It then lies down - likely on its side - and enters REM sleep via deep restfulness and SWS. It cannot lie down for too long since its weight restricts blood flow and puts pressure on its internal organs.
Among horses living in a group, 1 or 2 horses will typically stay awake while the rest of the herd lies down. These guard horses get their own chance to sleep when other horses replace them. Horses are careful to sleep in sheltered locations, preferably with their head pointing toward the escape route.
Horse Sleep Requirements and Issues
Horses sleep for only a few minutes at a time, alternating between dozing, lying down, eating, and moving around. Sleeping may occur during the day or night, although the nighttime is more common, especially among horses that work during the day.
On average, horses sleep only 3 hours total over a 24-hour period. At least 30 minutes of that sleeping should be REM sleep. Foals sleep for about half the day until they’re 3 months old, at which point they start sleeping less.
Although a horse can survive for several days without REM sleep, sleep deprivation can cause crankiness, issues with metabolism and body temperature, and even collapsing. Reasons that a horse might not get enough deep sleep include pain or discomfort at lying down and feeling uncomfortable in its environment.
Horses may also suffer from narcolepsy, a neurological condition in which they enter deep sleep frequently yet unintentionally. Horses with narcolepsy enter REM sleep nearly instantly, causing them to collapse.
Do you have a favourite fact about horses and sleep? Let us know in the comments!
You’ve heard of mules, donkeys, and zebras, but what about wacky combinations like hinnies and zonkeys? And do you have any idea how they all relate to each other? In this post, we explain the relationship between horses, donkeys, and zebras, then explore what happens when these different species are combined.
Horses, donkeys, and zebras all belong to the Equidae family, giving them certain shared characteristics. These herbivores are all herd animals and swift runners. They also walk on the tips of their toes.
Equids’ stocky, hair-covered bodies typically have a mane and forelock (a lock of hair on the forehead). They have a thick, long skull with a long nasal bone and between 40 and 42 teeth.
Pregnancy for female horses and other equids lasts 11 to 13 months. They give birth about every 2 years to a single offspring. Their typical lifespan is 25 to 35 years.
It’s possible to breed most types of equids with each other - and people have certainly tried to do so. However, the attempts are not always successful, partly due to the different species’ different numbers of chromosomes. Even if offspring do result, they’re often infertile.
The name for a cross between 2 different equids typically combines the first part of the father’s species name with the second part of the mother’s species name. For example, a cross between a male zebra and a female horse is often called a zorse. However, there are many exceptions to this rule.
The general name for a hybrid between a zebra and a horse or donkey is a zebroid. Hybrids involving zebras tend to use a male zebra, not a female.
Male donkey + female horse = mule
Male horse + female donkey = hinny
Male mule = john
Female mule = molly
Mules are traditionally used as draft or pack animals. They’re known for being strong, hardy, intelligent, and sure-footed. They look similar to horses other than having longer ears.
Crosses between male donkeys and female horses are more common. Hinnies are also possible but more difficult to obtain. In either case, male animals (johns) are sterile, while female animals (mollies) can occasionally reproduce.
Male zebra + female horse = zorse
Male horse + female zebra = hebra
Male zebra + female pony = zony
Hybrid zebras are typically easier to work around and ride than standard zebras, while still retaining zebras’ hardiness and disease resistance. Zorses and hebras display stripes on the parent horse’s background colour. On horses with white patches, the stripes only show up on coloured hair.
The stripes tend to be most distinct on the legs and face, with fainter stripes along the body. Other features include a stripe along the spine, an upright mane, and large ears. Male animals tend to be sterile, while females are usually, but not always, sterile as well.
Male zebra + female donkey = zonkey, zedonk, zebronkey, zebadonk …
Male donkey + female zebra = donkra
As you might expect, donkras and zonkeys (or whatever you want to call them!) have a striped pattern on donkey colouring. Like with horse-zebra hybrids, the clearest stripes are on the legs. There’s also the same tendency for male animals to be sterile and female animals to be sterile most of the time.
Do you have a favourite of the many hybrid equids? Let us know in the comments!
Have you ever watched people riding and wondered how they get the horse to do what they want? Or maybe you’ve ridden a few times but want to deepen your understanding about this topic. In this post, we explain the major riding commands and how they’re used to make a horse start moving, change speeds, switch direction, and stop.
Riders use a combination of different cues to signal to the horse what they’d like it to do. They use their hands, legs, seat or weight, and voice. Horses pick up on the slightest movement, so it’s important to be intentional with cues.
Most riding commands are based on the idea of pressure and release. The rider applies pressure, such as a squeeze with the leg, then releases that pressure when the horse performs the desired action. Start with the lightest pressure possible, then only increase the pressure if necessary.
Getting a Horse to Start Moving
Apply light pressure to the horse’s mouth with the reins to get its attention. Squeeze gently with your calves. If the horse does not start moving, you may need to squeeze more sharply. You also want to shift your weight slightly forward.
Riders often make a clicking sound or say a short word like “Walk” or “Go.” Use a quiet but firm voice when addressing a horse. Once the horse has started walking, release the leg pressure and some of the pressure on the horse’s mouth.
To make a horse move more quickly, squeeze with your calves with slightly more pressure than for getting the horse to start walking. Sit taller in the saddle to lighten the weight on the horse. Move your hips back and forth, following the horse’s rhythm or even moving faster than the horse to encourage it to speed up.
To get a horse to slow down, tighten your stomach muscles, which creates resistance. Maintain leg contact, but do not squeeze the horse. Consider using a voice command like “Whoa” or “Easy.”
When horseback riding, you might use direct reins or neck reins. When making a left turn using direct reins, you would pull with your left hand. When making the same turn with neck reins, you would pull the reins across the horse’s neck toward the left.
If you want a horse to turn, there are also other possible cues. Look where you want to go, turning your head, shoulders, and hips in that direction. Shift your weight slightly in the desired direction so that the horse moves to correct its centre of gravity.
Squeeze just behind the horse’s girth with your outside leg (if you’re turning left, the outside leg is the right leg). With your inside leg (in this case, the left leg), apply pressure directly to the horse’s girth. Once the horse has turned, return to your normal riding position.
To get a horse to back up, shift your weight backward. Try saying “Back.” If the horse is stopped, you can also pull on the reins.
To warn a horse that you’ll want to stop soon, tighten your stomach muscles, lean back in the saddle, and sink your weight into your seat bones. When you’re ready to halt, pull back on the reins. If necessary, use a voice command like “Whoa.”
Do you feel ready to ride a horse? Let us know in the comments!
Hello, My name is Shelby Gatti, and I am the owner of Shelby Ranch. I love being able to share my passion for animals with you and your family. At Shelby Ranch you can expect a ton of family adventure from horseback riding to mechanical bull riding & axe throwing.